CullmanTimes.com - Cullman, Alabama

Community News Network

January 8, 2013

3-D printers could make your desk a factory

LAS VEGAS — When Ford wants to try out a new transmission part, an engineer sends a digital blueprint of the component to a computer, and what happens next once seemed like the stuff of science fiction.

Inside a device about the size of a microwave oven, a plastic, three-dimensional version of the component begins to take shape before your eyes. After scanning the design blueprint, the gadget fuses together a paper-thin layer of plastic powder. It repeats, putting another layer on top, and then thousands more, before binding the material together with lasers. A few hours later, out pops the auto part, ready to be tested.

The cost of such technology: about $1,500.

At such prices, 3-D printers, once an obscure and expensive innovation, are gaining traction among businesses, with broad implications for manufacturing. Ford is putting them in the hands of every one of its engineers. NASA uses the printers to test parts that could eventually make it to space.

And pretty soon, analysts say, they will be showing up in the home office. Just a few years ago, 3-D printers were as big as industrial refrigerators and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars each. Now anyone can order one online and put it on a desk.

That such technology can be offered so cheaply and compactly may be these gadgets' true breakthrough.

"You can argue this is the democratization of manufacturing," said Carl Howe, head of consumer research at Yankee Group, a tech research firm. He predicted that this will be the year when 3-D printers will become inexpensive enough to gain wider interest from small businesses, colleges and consumers.

"Things that used to require tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for plastic molds, you can now do for $1,500 or less," Howe said.

This is definitely the year that 3-D printing is making a splash at the International Consumer Electronics Show, the annual bazaar of geek commerce. Last year, only one 3-D printing company showed up at the CES, which aims to showcase gadgets you might buy at Best Buy or Amazon, not at industrial supply stores. This week, four such companies will be there.

Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • VIDEO: Boston bomb scare defendant appears in court

    The man accused of carrying a backpack containing a rice cooker near the Boston Marathon finish line on the anniversary of the bombings was arraigned Wednesday. He's being held on $100,000 bail.

    April 17, 2014

  • The case for separate beds

    The other night I slept on a twin bed in the guest room of the house I share with my husband and our two kids.
    It was the best night's sleep I've had in years.

    April 17, 2014

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Low blood-sugar levels make for grousing spouses

    Husbands and wives reported being most unhappy with their spouses when their blood-sugar levels were lowest, usually at night, according to research released this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Missing a meal, dieting or just being hungry may be the reason, researchers said.

    April 16, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 12.51.22 PM.png VIDEO: Toddler climbs into vending machine

    A child is safe after climbing into and getting stuck inside a claw crane machine at a Lincoln, Neb., bowling alley Monday.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • portraitoflotte.jpg VIDEO: From infant to teen in four minutes

    Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester’s time lapse video of his daughter, Lotte — created by filming her every week from her birth until she turned 14 — has become a viral sensation.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo